How to Find a Good Riding Instructor

Whether you're a competitive show rider, or just want to have a few lessons, having a good, kind trainer is a must. So how are you going to find that perfect person to help you and your mount reach the next level?


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    Think about what level of instruction you're looking for, before you start. Some people just want a trainer for a weekly lesson, while some like anywhere from two to four lessons per week. This will help you narrow down your search, although most trainers have plenty of once-a-weekers, and competitive riders, too. You should also think about what kind of money you're willing to spend. More well-known trainers usually charge more, but a less-known trainer will charge a good deal less. Think about how far you're willing to travel, and maybe, if you keep your horse at your place, if you'd like the instructor to come to you.
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    Ride around. Check with your horsey friends to see where they ride, and the other barns in the area, if you don't already know. Once you know this, you can call up and set up a lesson. Sometimes, even if you have your own horse already, you can usually ride a lesson horse. You'll see how much effort they put into the lesson program. Visit every barn in your area.
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    Make sure the barn is clean and organized. A dirty, unorganized barn is a recipe for disaster!
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    Watch another lesson. Sometimes, you can gain more from watching than from actually taking a lesson. But be sure to call and schedule a time in advance!
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    Visit the farm's website (if available). Many farms put up lots of information about lesson rates, what they do, and information about the farm as well as pictures of horses and students.


  • Look at how they treat their horses, too. Do people just throw them in their stalls after lessons? Do they spend time carefully grooming them before and after?
  • Riding with or at the stable your friend goes to is a nice idea, but, things might get too competitive with you and your friend. Remember, don't de-friend someone just to win a blue ribbon.
  • If you still can't decide where to go, take more lessons and think it over. There's no reason to rush.


  • Ask for references, make sure there are some long time references available. An instructor who spends more time making things look pretty, rather than actually working horses is a red flag!.
  • Watch out for barns where over 5 people are usually riding in the arena, even during a private lesson. Some horses don't do well in that environment and people are often hurt, sometimes badly.
  • Always check out website claims before hiring instructors. Look at the pictures. The one I mentioned above shows photos of children grooming, one on each side of a rather large horse, the horse is on a rope in a field, and the children are not wearing helmets. Her Facebook page shows her husband kneeling down, while a horse nuzzles his hair, then bites him, you hear her laughing. While she claims to teach safety, she obviously is not practicing safety or modeling it for her students.Are these qualified and safe instructors? A picture says a thousand words, and FB shares even more!
  • When reviewing websites, contact the organization that the instructor claims to be part of. I recently checked a website in central Oregon. The trainer showed pictures from the east coast, saying she won numerous year end awards on the east coast as in an FEI level instructor. After I contacted the FEI, they have no database records for her showing. The USDEF shows she has only successfully completed the training level and took two second level tests scoring in the 50's with one 64. I would not consider this a trainer who has extensive dressage from training level to FEI level, as claimed in her pages. She claims she rode Pipestave Hill . A picture on her website is shown there with her riding. To those of us in Oregon this is impressive (a real east coast eventer!) , however, further exploration I found this is a "grasshopper and novice" event course. I spoke to Amy, the coordinator and she doesn't know this person (as a trainer who brought students there), so we can assume she showed there once or twice, as a novice or grasshopper student, absolutely NOT a qualification to be teaching eventing or claiming to be an event instructor!

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Categories: Riding